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Remember The Raisin!
by Jim Cummings

The War of 1812 was called the second revolution or the second war of Independence. It was a war to protect and to enforce our US sovereignty that was being challenged by the British.

Britain still did not want to let the colonies go. The British were still invading on the western and northern fronts and still stirring up unrest among the Indian Nations.

The British felt that they needed the natives to help roust the Americans out of the west, to further their cause and to gain commerce in the US.

It is true that the United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. It was a Kentucky statesman named Henry Clay, who helped persuade President James Madison to declare war.

Most of the action of this war was along the Canadian border, between Detroit and Lake Champlain. On June 1st President Madison recommended a declaration of war. On June 4th the Senate passed the war bill and Madison signed it on June 18th.


And on January 23, 1813 The Battle of the River Raisin took place. The Governor of the Michigan territory was William Hull (1753-1825). He had command of 300 regular and 1200 Ohio and Kentucky militia volunteers.

Hull was a Revolutionary War hero. He was 60 years old at the time and despite age and incompetence was still put in command of the troops. The objective was for him to take his troops across the Detroit River and capture Ft. Malden which blocked the entrance to Lake Erie.

The closer he got to Ft. Malden the more he believed that he and his troops were out numbered so he delayed his assault. These delays gave the British commander Major General Issac Brock sufficient time to bring his regulars into position. On August 2nd Shawnee War Leader Tecumseh began harassing and ambushing Hull's columns. Hull started to lose confidence in himself and thinking that he was grossly outnumbered and outgunned withdrew his troops from Canada and headed back to Ft. Detroit in what he thought was a smart move.

Brock after witnessing the withdrawal, united his six hundred troops and Tecumseh's warriors and followed Hull to Detroit. There on August 16 General Brock goaded Hull into surrendering without firing a shot.

Hull was later convicted of cowardice and sentenced to death by firing squad, but was later pardoned by President James Madison. Hull's bad judgment was the first major loss to the Kentucky and Ohio volunteers. But the worst loss to the Kentucky volunteer militia was on January 22, 1813 at the Battle of the River Raisin. (Also known as The Massacre at River Raisin)

After Hull's surrender at Fort Detroit in August, General William Henry Harrison hurriedly organized the Northwest Army. General Harrison's army marched by three routes through Ohio and Indiana, with orders to unite at the Maumee River in Northern Ohio before proceeding to Detroit.


January snows slowed down the rendezvous and the first column to reach the meeting place was General James Winchester's with his 1,300 fighting Kentuckians which formed the left column.

General Winchester with cold and nearly starved troops and nearly no supplies made a decision without consulting General Harrison. He attacked a small lightly guarded outpost on the River Raisin called Frenchtown (now Monroe, MI). It was only 18 miles from Ft. Malden.

After only a small skirmish the outpost belonged to the Kentuckians and food and warmth followed.

On January 18th, 650 Kentucky militia under command of Lt. Colonel William Wells and Lt. Colonel John Allen occupied the small outpost. On January 20 reinforcements of 250 Kentucky regulars under the command of Colonel Sam Wells met up with the Kentucky militia at Frenchtown. Due to the overcrowding many men were forced to camp outside of Frenchtown in a clearing a short distance away.

British General Henry Proctor sent out spies to gain information on the whereabouts of the enemy. After getting reports back, General Proctor made a decision to attack the next morning. He also knew that General Harrison's troops were approaching and would be there soon.

General Proctor assembled his 1200 to 1400 British soldiers and Indian warriors to make ready the attack. General Proctor knew the Kentuckians in the clearing would be doomed from the start. At dawn the British attacked with an artillery barrage catching Col. Wells and the Kentuckians by surprise. The Kentuckians were taking a beating. Lt. Colonels Lewis and Allen led their Kentucky volunteers out to confront the British and Indians. They too were coming under heavy fire. The Indians and British began to come from every where. The Kentuckians were forced to run into the woods where they were hunted down. Only a few survived and only a handful would escape. General Winchester escaped up river but was captured by Indians.

Major George Madison was left in command. After regrouping what Kentuckians he had left, they hunkered down in the little town along the River Raisin and began to fight back. Madison and the Kentuckians held off three attempts to overrun their position. Even under heavy artillery fire they did not give up.

Major Madison and his troops held out until early afternoon when water, ammunition and other supplies ran out. When they had nothing left to fight with - they surrendered.

The captured Kentuckians that could walk were marched north. The wounded were left in Frenchtown. There were about 80 wounded Kentuckians left by General Procter. When night fell the Indians started burning the buildings along the River Raisin and murdering, scalping and mutilating the helpless wounded. Over 60 of the 80 were killed. Those that were not killed outright were thrown into the burning buildings to die.

From that time on when Kentuckians went into battle in the War of 1812 their rallying cry was ``Remember The Raisin."







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